The Fuzzy End of the Lollipop (1/5)
A Justice League: TAS story
by Constance Eilonwy (dotsomething) and Merlin Missy (mtgat)
Copyright 2004
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by DC / Warner Bros. No infringement on
their copyright is intended or should be inferred.

Notes: This was supposed to be a quick, funny little bit of fun with Story Dice.
Five, six pages tops. It, um, mutated. The story takes place in that lovely span of
time between "Wild Cards" and "Starcrossed," and is very slightly AU due to the
latter. Yes, we know it's a deus ex machina. No, we don't care. And yes, we
adore Brynne Chandler-Reaves, thanks for asking. No, we haven't read the JL
Adventures where Wally wears the dress. Yes, we know we suck.

We'd like to thank the following people: ratgirlusa, for the initial impetus to get this
moving, for background info, and for beta reading; chaoswrangler, for betaing
above and beyond the call of duty (this isn't her fandom); amilyn, batyatoon,
and the Nicole, for being sounding boards at various stages in the development of
this story, and also for independently coming up with ... Let's call it more Bruce
torture, and not give too much away, yes? Also a nod to mannoftalent, who heard
the concept, and immediately did voice casting for the League.

Later, Wally thought there should have been a standing rule. The League had
plenty of them already:

No guests.

No eating or drinking at the controls. This means Flash.

Nobody but Superman gets to yell at Batman.

Never let Diana and Hawkgirl go on a mission together without a referee.
That one wasn't written down anywhere, but if it had been, it would have been in
big block letters, underlined three times in red.

Knock first. It had taken Wally a while to learn that one, but on the plus
side, now he knew where John's other tattoo was, and as Bats always said, you
never knew when information would be useful.

Would it have been so hard to add the very simple: Don't leave Flash alone on
the Watchtower when he's bored?
Later, sure, they'd establish and stick to it.
Like every other rule, this one would come from experience.

As it was, everyone else was dealing with the Intergang mess in Metropolis, while
Flash minded the store. No major disasters needed his help. No riots. Nothing
making a ping in the weird-ass computer monitoring system Bats had set
up to look for unusual patterns of activity.

He switched the main screen's view to downtown Metropolis. The sound was
out, but he could sit and watch his teammates mop up the last of the baddies,
while he sat here, bored and lonely, and ... hungry. In less than a second, he ran to
kitchen, started the oven on pre-heat, and ran back to the control room.

The little floating man hadn't been there when he'd left.


"Um, hi. You shouldn't be here." Flash zipped around him to guard the controls,
which the little man had already turned to examine.

"Hm. Still using electronics. Primitive, but I can ... " The little man moved his
hand towards a sequence of buttons.

"Don't touch that." Truth be told, Flash wasn't entirely sure what that set of
buttons did. Batman had told him to leave them alone, and mostly, he had.

"Hey, I know you! Superman told us about you. Mister Mixmaster?"

"Mister Mxyzptlk," said the little man, and bowed from his mid-air perch.

"Didn't Supes say something about you not being allowed to come back to Earth?

"We're not on Earth." Mxyzptlk vanished and reappeared in the Crow's Nest.
Flash was there a microsecond later, to see him start pressing buttons.

"Stop that!" He batted the man's hand away, and checked. Fortunately, he didn't
seem to have caused any damage, like missiles suddenly getting pointed at
Washington D.C., or anything.

"You're not nearly as much fun as Superman." Flash heard a small pop. A
quiet, clacking noise started behind his head. A large typewriter was floating
behind him, the keys moving on their own.

"Whatever." Flash remembered more of what the big guy had said about
Mxyzptlk, that he was a troublemaker who got his rocks off tormenting
Superman. At the time, Flash was getting a lecture (topic: "Why We Don't Stop
to Chat With Pretty Girls on the Way to a Fight") so he'd thought the guy sounded
like a lot of fun.

Mxyzptlk zipped past him and tore the paper off the typewriter. "What pretty

"What?" Flash grabbed the paper from the imp and scanned it, as the typewriter
kept typing. He read: And then he gave me a stupid lecture on why we don't
stop to chat with pretty girls on the way to a fight.
"The hell?"

Mxyzptlk pulled off the next sheet. Flash could just see What the hell?
written on the sheet.

"You're typing out my thoughts?" click click click click

"And they're not that interesting," said Mxyzptlk, dropping the newest paper to
the floor. "Where's Big Blue?"

"Out." click click click "Stop that!"

"Metropolis, eh? I can wait."

"Not here." Flash made a dash to grab him, and really shouldn't have expected it
to work. "You need to get gone. We're not supposed to have company."

"I'm not company. I'm practically family." click click click rip
"Who's Annoying Uncle Murray?"

"Me, usually," said Flash, and grabbed at him again.

"You're not gonna catch me. You're just gonna embarrass yourself."

"Wouldn't be the first time."

"Suit yourself." The typewriter vanished with another pop, as did Mxyzptlk.

"Crud." Flash couldn't see him anywhere, and he wasn't lucky enough for the
guy to have just left. "Think, West." He called up an intruder search on the
computer. His quarters. "Bingo."

A moment later, he was in his room. Everyone had a small room on the satellite,
to catch some shut-eye or a shower after a hard day. J'onn lived in his. Everyone
else used their rooms more or less as hotel rooms: someplace to stay, but not to

Normally, his room was a little messy, he admitted. He felt that a room wasn't
homey without at least a couple bags of Doritos and Bugles on the night stand,
with the empties on the floor more or less in the direction of the trash can. Okay,
and clothes on the floor with the bags. Blankets too. He just wasn't a neatnik.
But now his room looked like a tornado had come through. Mxyzptlk had been

When Wally stayed at a hotel, he tended to order Pay-Per-View. Which wasn't an
option up here.

"Put that away!" he yelled.

Mxyzptlk looked up over the top of the magazine, waggled what were hopefully
his eyebrows, and went back to reading. "Hmpf. This Leonard Maltin guy sure
has a stick up his ... "

Flash managed to grab it away from him, ripping Miss October in the process.
He'd liked Miss October, too. "Get out of my room!"

"Why? This is much more interesting than the control room. What else you got?"

"Nothing. Get out before I toss you out an airlock."

Mxyzptlk went pop again. And reappeared outside the window. He waved.

pop "Not so much an issue, kid."

"Do you ever get less irritating?"

"Not unless I'm losing my touch. And speaking of ... "

"Get. Out." pop

From outside, he saw the Javelin coming into view. The others would be here in
just a minute. Flash straightened his room quickly — no use getting another
lecture on Keeping the Watchtower Tidy — and sped back to the Control Room.

"Hey guys, we've got company. Short guy, big head, bad fashion sense. Has a
thing for Supes?"

Superman's voice came over the comm link, saying a word Flash had previously
been certain Superman had never even heard before, followed by: "Mxyzptlk?"

"That's the guy."

"Stay away from him. He's trouble."

"No kidding."

pop "Oh good! He's finally here!" The imp chuckled.

"Can't you just ... shoo?" Mxyzptlk folded his arms across his chest and smiled.

"I don't get it. Why do you want to get rid of me? I'm tons of fun!" An anvil
appeared beside him and fell. "I can be useful." Mxyzptlk popped out and back
in wearing a small version of Flash's costume. He zipped around the room.
"Here I come to save the day!" He popped back into his own clothes.

"Why are you here? Don't you have a dimension to go back to?"

"It's boring there. You Earth-losers are a lot more fun." pop Miss October,
clad in only a smile, appeared on his arm. Amber, her name is Amber and she
likes toned guys and long walks and horses oh god ...

"Hi!" chirped Miss October.

"Send her home!"

"You're even more uptight than Superboy! What's your problem?"

"I don't have a problem. I'm at work." Momentarily, he felt the spirit of Green
Lantern enter him: "There is a time and a place for those things, and this isn't it."
He tried ending it with the same frown John would use. Which was made much
harder by keeping his eyes shut and still trying to look through the closed eyelids.

"You look constipated."

He sighed inwardly; he never could make his face do that look right.

"Just. Make her go. Away." The station shuddered slightly as the Javelin entered
the landing bay. They were going to be here any second, and he was not
going to be able to explain Miss October.

pop Bye, Amber.

"Just trying to help. You've got Issues." He popped into a surprisingly good
imitation of Sigmund Freud. "You do not like ze girls?"

"I like ze, I mean, I like girls! Just, not now!"

Mxyzptlk / Freud raised his eyebrow. "Now, what can we do about that
kind of attitude?"

"I don't have an attitude!" The elevator door came open, spilling out everyone
but J'onn, who materialized up through the floor.

Mxyzptlk grinned. "Then you won't mind this little adjustment."

"What the — " He was nauseous, he was dizzy, he was ... Wally fell to his knees,
tried not to empty his stomach on the floor. His head was full of cotton. Make
that lead.


"Superman ... " The weight inside his head shifted, let him look towards the so-
called invulnerable member of their group. Who was curled up and in spasms a
few feet away. Hawkgirl's mace could block magic, if that's what this was, but
she was as gone as the rest of them.

The pain in his head, in his entire body, built and he gasped in breath to
scream ...

Gone. The pain was gone. He let out his breath in surprise, waited there on the
floor for it to return. Nothing.

The little man was laughing. "This is fantastic! I was just going to show Quick
Drawers a thing or two, but I got Stuporboy and the rest of the Just Us Losers,

"Mxyzptlk!" Superman said. It had to be Superman, because that was where
Superman had been just a few seconds ago, and that was Superman's uniform.
But he hadn't been a contralto at the time. And he certainly hadn't been a tall,
rather nicely-proportioned contralto whose short, dark hair had a very familiar
little curl in front.

"Oh my god," said Wally, and grabbed his throat as the words came out wrong.
Certain signals his metabolism had been trying to send him now demanded his
complete attention. He looked down. Those are so not supposed to be

A batarang flew by, catching Wally's attention and nailing the little man to the
wall by the cloth at his shoulder. True to form, Bats had been the first to recover,
and was stalking over to Mxyzptlk.

"Change. Us. Back. NOW."

Note to self: Bats is just as creepy when he's a girl.

The little man giggled, apparently unfazed. In the gravest of insults, he ignored
Batman, instead looking directly at Superman.

"I think it's an improvement. One that should stay a while." The little man
smiled even bigger. "Kltpzyxm, suckers!"

He vanished as Batman's hand passed through where he'd been.

"What's that last word mean?" Wally asked Superman.

"That we are in very big trouble." He sighed, or maybe she did, pronouns were
about to become very hard in Wally's head. "Is everyone okay?"

There were a few groans. Hawkgirl, well most definitely not Hawkgirl
anymore, stood up slowly and stretched her wings. "Everything seems to still be
working." She'd retained a slim form, but with more bulk around the biceps, and
she was taller. She tugged at the top of her outfit to cover what no longer
technically needed covering, then reached down to help a dazed Diana up.

Diana asked "What just happened?" and then grabbed her throat and screamed.
Superman, and damn he was gonna need a new name, went to Diana's side while
Bats turned on his heel and went to the controls.

"This is not happening," said a female voice across the room. GL stayed sitting
on the floor, knees drawn up against himself. J'onn was carefully trying to get
him to his feet, but GL was going to have none of it. J'onn was ... Normal.

"Hey, why didn't J'onn change?"

"You are apparently missing a fundamental concept of the word 'shapeshifter,'"
replied J'onn, finally giving up on coaxing GL.

"This is bad," said Supes.

"You think?"

"Mxyzptlk said his name backwards. He's banished from Earth for ninety days."

"Oh Hera," said Diana, as Hawkgirl said something foul in her own language.
His. Hell.

"I can't trace him," said Batman. "He's completely vanished."

"I could've told you that. He's gone back to his dimension. He physically can't
come back until the ninety days are up."

"We're stuck like this?" Wally felt light-headed again.

"Maybe it won't be so terrible," said Hawkgirl. "Walk a mile, right?"

"Right," said Diana, not sounding certain at all. "Perhaps this is an ...
opportunity. Yes. My muscles are larger, and I don't feel as though the gods have
taken their favor away." She took an experimental flight up to the top of the
window and down again. Wally wasn't about to comment on the now-ridiculous
little bathing suit, but Diana did tug at it when she landed. "Are there any other
differences I should know about?"

"Hm?" asked Superman. The question was, however, enough to get John to pay
attention, and Batman to stop whatever it was he was doing at the control panel.

"What do you mean?" asked Hawkgirl, testing the waters.

"You and I are male now. For the time being." Diana shivered, possibly from
cold, possibly from the same gut-wrenching feeling that was punching Wally right
in the equilibrium. "That means we are larger in size and we have no breasts."
Superman reached out and very carefully whacked Wally on the back of the head
before he could say anything. "Are there other differences?"

"You're kidding, right?"

Diana's new face radiated complete innocence.

Wally got to see a new expression creep over his friends' altered features, and that
expression was dawning horror. He was certain it was on his own face, and yet
could not stop himself from asking: "Did your mom ever happen to tell you where
little Amazons come from?"

"I was carved from clay and brought to life by the favor of the goddess Athena."
Well, that's better than the stork story.

All eyes in the room turned to Hawkgirl.

"No way. I'm not her mother."

The dead silence continued. Hawkgirl made a defeated noise and grabbed Diana's
arm. "All right. C'mon, Fabio. I'm gonna explain a few things to you." Over
her shoulder, she added, "John, I'm going to borrow some of your civvies.
Superman, do you have anything that will fit Diana?"

"In my quarters."

"Thanks." Another shudder passed through Wally. Hawkgirl never thanked
anyone, and that creeped him out just as much as anything else.

When they were safely out of earshot, Diana started laughing. Shayera tried
holding her own snickers in, and couldn't. "It's not the innocent act that's so
funny, you know."

"I know. It's that they buy it every time. But I had to. They were getting ..."
Diana frowned. "Strange."

Shayera nodded. "I noticed. Let's get changed and sort out this mess."

Shayera and Diana were out of the room. That made it ... better. John hadn't
responded, couldn't even look, when Shayera had told him she was taking his
clothes. He was taking her clothes.

"Oh god."

"Hey, are you gonna be all right?" Flash was right there, looking concerned. The
costume hung loose on him, which was good, because if John started casually
checking out his best friend's new rack, he was going to go bonkers.


"Tell me I was just hit really hard in the head during the fight. Please."

"Wish I could, buddy. Come on, no use staying on the floor." Reluctantly, he
allowed Flash to help him to his feet.

"What are you looking up?" J'onn asked Batman, who was still at the damned
control panel. As if any of them could control things right now.

"I need to find out exactly what's been done to us so I can fix it."

"I would think that's pretty obvious," said Superman, crossing his arms. Her

"Yes. You would." Batman continued typing. Then she paused. "Lantern, come

John complied, and Batman immediately grabbed the sleeve of his uniform and
rolled it up.

"Hey!" Batman glanced at the "USMC" and dropped the sleeve.

"So we are in our own bodies."

"You could've asked."

Flash asked, "Still think it's a hallucination?"

"I'm hoping."

"It was magic," said Superman. "Or as close to it as doesn't make a difference."

"We know magic users," J'onn replied.

"You can try, but I don't think they can undo it. I think we're stuck until
Mxyzptlk comes back."

"We can't stay like this for three months," John said. "We'll be laughingstocks."

Superman said, "At least you don't have a secret identity about to be blown." She
sighed. "I need to call my parents."

"Not yet," said Batman.

The elevator opened behind them. John refused to watch as their currently male
members joined the rest.

"What did we miss?" asked Shayera, and damn, but John had to glance over.
He'd grabbed some pants and an old shirt that wasn't one of John's particular
favorites, and had at the latter with the scissors to accommodate his wings. Diana
looked only slightly more comfortable in Superman's jeans and flannel; he kept
shooting disbelieving looks to the rest of them.

Speaking of clothes ... John willed the ring to refit the uniform, felt the fabric
snug around him. It wasn't acceptable. Nothing about this was acceptable. But
at least it didn't hang.

"What if we don't tell anyone?" Batman suggested.

Flash snorted. "You don't think people might notice?"

"I'm saying J'onn looks the same. I'm also saying the world is big enough for six
new superheroes to take up temporary residence while the Justice League is on an
extended mission to another part of the galaxy. And those of us with secret
identities come down with a bad case of the flu."

Flash asked, "Are we up to a hoax like that?"

"What are our other options?" asked Diana.

Batman counted, "We go back to our normal lives, which are immediately turned
upside-down. We stay here on the Watchtower for the next three months. We
follow Mxyzptlk to his dimension and force him to turn us back."

"Show of hands for option C," Flash said hopefully.

"How will we convince people we're not us?" Shayera asked, rustling his

"New costumes. New names," said Superman. "It's the costume that makes the
hero in most people's eyes."

Batman added, "In our daily lives, too. We'll need to become long-lost sisters,
cousins, something." He glanced at Superman. "Chloe."

A shadow passed over Superman's face. "Not Chloe. Maybe Clara." Then she
smirked at Batman. "Brynne." Batman's eyes narrowed.

John smirked to himself. At least those two will drop their "Who's Bigger?"
contest for a while.

"And I thought today was gonna be boring," said Flash.

"About that," said John. "How did Mxyzptlk get aboard the Watchtower?
Weren't you supposed to be monitoring?"

"I did! He surprised me!"


"Enough," said Superman, or maybe Clara now. "We need to make sure our
powers still work, or at least work the way they're supposed to. We don't want
any surprises in the middle of a fight."

Batman turned back to the control panel. "I'm going to start an electronic paper
trail for our cover stories."

"We're really going to do this?" asked Diana.

"It's our best chance," Superman replied.

It wasn't nearly as bad as he'd feared. Clark was expecting to be at about Kara's
power level, so he was reassured when he could still beat down one of Lantern's
constructs without an issue. Flight: check. Heat vision: check, and Diana's
bracelets still worked, too. Super speed: check, and ow.

Flash was having a worse time with the speed. She was just as fast as ever, but to
be perfectly frank, she'd never had to consider support before. Clark felt her pain,
literally. He was still going to call his parents when he got back to Metropolis,
but now it was going to include what was sure to be an excruciating conversation
with Ma, or Kara, about bras. He wasn't sure which prospect was worse.

crash "Damn." And that wasn't their only problem.

Diana helped Hawkman — at least it was easy to remember — up from where
he'd crashed. Again. Clark took great care not to notice Lantern wasn't rushing
to Hawkman's side after each crash, was busy giving a very bad day to one of
their workout dummies with giant green boxing gloves.

"Maybe you just need to stretch your muscles first," suggested Diana.

"Um, yeah," said Hawkman. "I'll try that. It's just a matter of getting used to a
new center of gravity. And different wind resistance. And different muscles."
He found a chair, sat in it heavily. "This is going to be awful. At least you can fly
with magic."

"It is not exactly magic."

Speaking of needing new names. "Diana, what are we going to call you?"

"What do you mean?"

"You kinda have a girl-specific name," said Flash. "GL and I are okay, 'cause we
don't have the word 'man' in our names."

Clark asked, "Is there another name we could call you that wouldn't draw a huge
amount of attention?" Idly, he grabbed a steel rod and began bending it into
different shapes. Super strength: check.

"Perhaps Apollo? He was the brother of the goddess for whom I was named."
Sure enough, even in the new body, Diana had an air of divinity. He asked
Hawkman: "I have always wondered, why did you choose your name? I would
think you would have chosen to be known as Hawkwoman."

Hawkman shrugged. "I didn't choose. Not long after I arrived on Earth, there
was some dumb newspaper article that used the name, and that's how humans
referred to me afterwards."

"I'm sure we'll think of something appropriate," Clark said quickly.

Lantern's dummy gave an artificial groan as it came free from its post and flew
halfway across the room. She changed the ring construct to giant pincers, picked
it up, and threw it against the wall, where it broke.

"So," said Flash as they watched the pieces of the dummy spill to the floor, "Ring
still work?"

"I guess." She used it to hover, created some basic forms in the air as she did.
She dropped the field and stood. "I should get back Earthside."

"I'll go with you," said Hawkman. "It's not like I'm doing much flying here.
Maybe it'll be better under real gravity instead of the artificial stuff. Besides, I've
got secret identity issues to fix."

John looked like she was going to object, and then said simply, "Let's go."

"Let us know if anything happens," said Hawkman. Clark watched them leave.

"My powers seem to be intact," said Diana. "I will have to offer my thanks to the
gods when I return home."

"Then let's see if Batman has come up with anything for us yet."

Wally had to stop himself from vibrating in the elevator. Now that he was getting
accustomed to his new form, things felt so different. Besides the support problem,
he was aware of the cloth on his chest. Also, he was about six inches shorter than
he'd been, which wasn't fair since Supes was just as tall as before. John and Bats
both seemed to have lost some height, though not much, and while Diana had
gained only about two inches, Hawkman had shot up as much as Wally had
shrunk. He wasn't used to looking up at everyone this way.

And of course, thinking of the inches he'd lost inevitably lead to thoughts of ... the
inches he'd lost. Maybe that was what was driving John nuts. So to speak. And
it wasn't like Wally was over-happy at the new sitch, oh no, but he wasn't ready
to throw a wake for Little Wally yet, either. Because, and this was a very big
because, Little Wally might be on vacation, but Little Wendy, or whatever she
ended up calling herself, was already giving him ideas for his next date. Lots of
ideas. Hey, hadn't some of the girls he'd asked out as Wally turned him down,
they claimed, precisely because of Little Wally? If they were stuck like this for
the next three months, there was a whole new avenue of dating Wally was
perfectly happy to explore. In fact ...

"Are you quite finished?" J'onn glared at him as they exited the elevator.

"What? I just got here."

J'onn gave him a silent, and eloquent, "You were projecting again" look.

"Oh. Sorry." J'onn continued glaring, but did turn his attention back to Batman.
Or her attention, actually. Just because J'onn could still walk the walk and talk
the talk didn't mean he wasn't just as much of a she as Wally was. Which was
probably serving the double purpose of screwing with her just as much as the rest
of them, while also reminding her of how she was still the last of her kind.

J'onn turned back to Wally, who immediately said, "I'm sorry. Really."

Batman said, "I have believable cover stories set up for those of us who need
them." She handed out printouts. To Superman she said, "You're officially
following a lead in Singapore. I've also arranged a 'temporary assignment' for
Clara MacKenzie at your office, so you can stay in touch with things in

"Trust you to be thorough."

Wally scanned the printout. "I'm out with mono?"

"It was believable."

Wally thought about arguing. "Okay, yeah. So what do I get to do instead?"

Batman regarded Diana, thoughtfully. "You said this might be an opportunity. I
think you might be right."

"What do you mean?"

"We are known. Even our normal secret identities could be compromised
if we went undercover. But now, our covers can't be blown. We could infiltrate
some of the organized crime rings."

"You're thinking Intergang," said Superman.

"Right. Things have heated up since Boss Reynolds was gunned down."

Wally knew this bedtime story. After Darkseid left Earth, Intergang had
splintered into smaller rival groups trafficking in drugs and illegal firearms, one or
two also dabbling in gambling and prostitution. In the last year, three bosses had
collected the remains into their own private gangs, each one calling itself
Intergang and each one vying for supremacy over the other two. The bosses were
Reynolds, Roberts, and Roussimoff. Wally could never remember their names, at
least not until Batman suggested he think of them as "The Three R's." That had
worked fine until three weeks ago: someone had iced Reynolds and half his top
tier of cronies. Some of his people had fled to Roberts, the others to Roussimoff
or to their own private lives. Now the two remaining factions fought in the streets
for control of the whole pie, and bystanders were dying.

Bats continued, "Boss Roberts collects pretty girls. But Diana's well-known and
Hawkgirl's got two wings too many to go undercover."

Like needles to a magnet, everyone turned to look at Flash.

"What? No. Don't even ask."

"We could put you in a dress," said Superman.


"She'd need heels," said Diana.

"Stop it. Women wear pants all the time. I can, too."

"It would aid the illusion," said J'onn.

"But ... Look. I've never seen either Diana or Hawkgirl in a dress. I refuse to go
in drag ... "

"It's not drag if you're female," Superman said.

"Nuh uh. I refuse to wear a dress unless one of you has seen one of those
two in a dress." He grinned, sure of an easy victory.

And then Batman smiled.

"Stupid Paris. Stupid Kasnia."
Bruce had run it over in his mind and knew he would need help. While the rest
were otherwise distracted, he'd found a moment alone to sneak into the practice
room and ran through a few standard training exercises. The rest of the League
had been so preoccupied and curious about whether their superpowers still
functioned, no one had thought to check on Batman's abilities.

Which was just fine with him. Her. Whichever. The less they knew the better.

While the others' powers seemed to be intact with only slight, or no, reduction,
when he did the exercises, he discovered he was off. The knowledge and the skill
were still there — he was still a formidable martial artist. But he was too slow.
Off balance. Several times he had miscalculated how much force he would need
to strike an object, how quickly he could move, how much power was behind his
punch. He was unused to his new body, enough that he was no longer sure of his
ability in a fight. He was a danger to himself and his teammates in the field,
unless he did something to compensate.

And to do that, he'd need help.

Asking the rest of the League was out of the question. He had enough trouble
maintaining his equal footing with superpowered aliens and metahumans as it

There was only one place he could go, where they had already seen him
vulnerable, where he could trust them totally without question.

"Wayne Manor."

"Alfred, I need you to listen closely."

"Who is this?"

"Alfred, it's me."

"I am sorry, young lady, but you will have to ... "

"It's Bruce."

"I beg your pardon? If this is some kind of a prank, I must warn you, that .. "

"I can't explain over the phone, but it is me. I swear to you. Something's
happened. I'll be home soon."

"I really must insist ... "

"Password: Zorro."

"Oh. My."

Bruce terminated the call. He had made sure of being alone in the
communications room before contacting Alfred. The others didn't need to know
the first thing he'd done was call home, or that he was planning intermittent visits
there while all of this was going on.

"Are you going to talk to me now, or are we going to pretend we're not both in
this bubble all the way back to Earth?"

"Wouldn't know where to start. Besides, I'm not sure how this change affects my
willpower. If I get distracted, I might lose the field and we'd be spaced." He kept
his eyes on the growing planet. Okay, so there didn't seem to be any problems
with the ring, and he had checked fairly well before they'd even left the station,
and yes, it was hard trying to ignore the only other person in a force-field that was
only about ten feet in diameter, and ...

"Why don't we start with, how are you feeling?"

"Fine. I'm feeling fine."

"Sure you are."

"Can this please wait until we're on the planet?"

Shayera scowled, but stayed silent. It was only when they veered west towards
Midway City that he spoke again. "Where are we going?"

"I'm dropping you off at home, remember?"

"I thought that's just what we were telling the others. Your place is bigger, and
everyone in your building knows what you do for a living. And I thought we were
going to talk."

Doing a lot of thinking for once, aren't you? It was mean, and unfair, and
he kept it to himself. Shayera's impulsiveness was one of the things John loved
about her. There was something strongly attractive about someone who threw
herself fully into whatever she did. He did.

John rubbed his forehead, and against his better judgement, redirected them
towards his hometown. They touched down on the roof of his building, and John
ringed back into normal clothes before they entered the stairwell. He was all too
aware of Shayera right behind him on the stairs, somehow seeming even closer
than in the bubble.

Please don't let anyone see us. His silent prayer was answered as they
entered the apartment. While John checked for messages on the answering
machine — none — Shayera sat on the couch. John went into the bathroom,
splashed water on his face, spent a few minutes looking at the stranger in the

"In fact, I do have all night," came the horrible voice from the living room. John
flicked off the bathroom light.

Shayera sat as he always sat, that is to say, like he did when he was still a she. He
tipped his head up as John approached him, and there was that little half-smile.
All the body language was exactly right.

John sat on the other end of his couch and stared. "It really is you in there, isn't it.
This isn't some screwed up dream. You're not an imposter or a clone. It's real."

"You think I'm not asking the same things? I mean, yesterday ... "

Well, yes, yesterday. And the evening before. Twice. He couldn't deny it
anymore: the man on the couch was the woman he loved. "Wrong" didn't even
begin to cover it.

He found the words, finally. "Are you all right?"

"About what? Being switched inside out? Not being able to fly?" Shayera's
wings twitched in annoyance. "Or about the way you keep trying not to look at

"This isn't easy."

"It wasn't easy yesterday, either. You're the one who keeps telling me it doesn't
matter that we're different species. Fine. I can deal with that, I think."

"So can I." John stayed on his end of the couch, so much so his side pressed
against the arm.

"But you can't deal with this?"

"It's easier for you."

"I. Can't. Fly. What am I supposed to do in a fight, ask Sinestro to come down
so I can hit him over the head?"

"You'll relearn. You've still got your wings. And you handle yourself fine on the

"And you've still got your ring and your training. What's your problem?"

"Look at us! You have ... man parts! And I don't!"

"Temporarily." Shayera's mouth quirked. "It's like you said. I see a ... "


"Fine." He propelled himself off the couch. "You were the one who said we
should talk about our feelings. You were the one who wanted to jeopardize our
working relationship, our friendship, and possibly our lives in the middle of a
battle. Now it's a little harder, and you don't even want to think about this ..."
His arm flailed, looking for the right word. "Thing we're trying to build?
Well great. Maybe we should have had what's-his-face change us all last week,
and saved us the trouble."

"Yeah, I can just picture trying to deal with Joker like this." He indicated his new

It was like slow motion. Shayera had started to walk towards the door, stopped,
and turned around.

"You think you traded down."


"'Easier,' you said. You think Diana and I got the better deal."

"I didn't say that."

"You did. I've spent two years defending you and the other men on the team
every single time Diana came out with one of her little comments. And you know
what? I'm thinking maybe she's been right all along." John didn't need any
psychic powers to feel the anger rolling off him. He reached the door, pulled at it
harder than necessary before remembering the deadbolt.

John shot a green hand in front of him before he could exit, and walked up behind

"Get that out of my way." The tension in his shoulders threatened that the wings
wanted to flare, as if he longed to spread them and fly right out the window.

"Where are you going to go?"

"Home." Shayera turned back to the door.

"Gonna hitchhike?"

"I'll get there. Haven't tried flying in regular gravity yet, might be okay."

"You should stay."

"No, I should get the hell out of here before either of us says something we can't
take back. Or does something."

His stomach clenched, just a little. Shayera's temper was only endearing when
one wasn't its object. It wasn't so much a matter of force — John was sure most
of the team was stronger, even Flash — but Shayera made up for a lack of
physical strength with a complete inability to stop fighting until she was
unconscious. Also, big mace. The ring meant John was fairly sure he could still
take him in a fight if things got violent, but he wasn't sure he was willing to do
what it would take to stop him.

He dropped the construct.


Shayera paused. Then he came back inside. John's heart did a flip-flop, until
Shayera walked past him to the corner where the spare backpack was stowed. He
grabbed it, didn't put it on, stared for a moment at John before walking back
towards the door.

"Be careful. If you can't ... If you can't find a way home, come back."

Shayera didn't reply.

John left the spare key in the usual place, and stayed half-awake for hours,
listening for the door to open.

He eventually fell asleep alone on the couch.